The state Board of Education has proposed mothballing the Cedar Lakes Conference Center near Ripley -- or transferring it to different state agency -- to shave costs from the board's budget.One plan would lay off the center's 35 employees and leave the lovely retreat dormant, except for maintenance. Another plan would give it to some other agency to manage.It would be terrible if the center is curtailed. The 400-acre nature haven is a valuable West Virginia asset. Its lodges host multitudes of visitors. Thousands of guests visit the yearly arts-&-crafts event every July. The National Youth Science Camp holds special training for bright West Virginia students. 4-H groups, school bands, handicapped youngsters, Future Farmers of America, the state writers group and myriad others flock to the lake-dotted hideaway with its tall, slender, cedar trees.Defenders and Jackson County figures have launched a "Save Cedar Lakes Conference Center" Facebook site. Already, more than 2,000 people have put their names on a petition to rescue the facility.
One wrote: "My cousin's son has spina bifida. He has enjoyed camp at your conference center for years. Please do not take this place of joy away from him."Another wrote: "We have 4-H kids, FFA kids, band kids and several other organizations who bring their kids here. Kids go there to fish, play basketball, tennis, swim, skate, jog and walk."
Another said: "People who work at Cedar Lakes need their jobs. They have bills to pay and families to take care of. It would be a terrible loss to everyone if it closes."Cedar Lakes was established by the Legislature in 1949, barely after World War II, on land donated by some Jackson County residents. We don't know why it was assigned to the board that governs public schools.The statewide education audit -- performed because West Virginia students trail badly in standardized test scores -- said the Board of Education manages the retreat poorly, and recommended switching it to "a department with the appropriate resources, expertise and mission to support such an endeavor."Because state agencies were required to shave 7.5 percent from their operating budgets, the school board put Cedar Lakes on the chopping block.One sarcastic observer told us that officials probably are trying to sacrifice the retreat, rather than reduce "profligate spending by the Manchin puppet board. Is the choice really between closing Cedar Lakes or laying off unneeded bureaucrats in the department?"The governor and Legislature should step in to make sure that the Cedar Lakes Conference Center remains open, one way or another.